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Apply for a noise code variance

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For activities that make more noise than the Noise Code allows, or if your construction project takes place outside permitted construction hours, then you will need a noise variance.
A photograph of two construction workers bending down while cutting a steel rod. One holds the rod while the other cuts through it with a blade.

Most applications are reviewed within 10 business days.

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Portland is a growing, vibrant city that supports urban growth through construction projects and lively community celebrations. Sometimes events such as the Rose Festival and building construction are expected to produce sound that is louder than our Noise Code allows. When this happens, the Noise Program may issue a noise variance to allow a project or event to exceed the normally allowed sound levels. We do not issue variances for private parties at residences. Events held by businesses and organizations, such as outdoor movie screenings of block parties with amplified live music may require variances. Variances may be revoked, revised and/or enforcement actions may be taken if an applicant violates the conditions required by the Noise Review Board or Noise Officer.
 

What is a noise variance?

A noise variance is an authorization or exception, granted exclusively by the Noise Control Officer or the Noise Review Board, that allows an individual, business, or organization to exceed the standard noise limits or Maximum Permissible Sound Levels for a specific period or under certain conditions.
 

Applying for a noise variance

If you would like to request a specific event or activity that will generate noise outside the sound limits specified within the Noise Code, Title 18, of the Portland City Code, you may wish to apply for a noise variance. If your request is incomplete, or if the request is likely to be denied, we work to let applicants know as soon as possible.

There are separate applications for construction activities and for all other activities or events. Please note that we cannot begin the formal review of the noise variance request until the application is complete and all required fees are paid.

Complete steps for either (1) applying for a noise variance for construction, or (2) applying for a noise variance for all other activities are detailed below.


Steps for applying for a noise variance for construction

Noise Variance Application-Construction

  1. Complete the Construction Variance Form (the link to the application is in the blue button above). Please specify on the application the exact times and dates of each event, the cause of the noise, and include a site plan which includes the surrounding neighborhood, within a 500-foot radius. Normal permitted construction hours are from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. 
  2. Return completed application to Noise Program. You can submit your completed application via email to variances@portlandoregon.gov or via mail to the Noise Program, 1900 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 5000, Portland, OR 97201.
  3. Notify neighbors potentially impacted by the noise variance. The application won’t be considered complete without you having provided neighbor notification that a noise variance application is being submitted. At a minimum your notification must specify the activity dates/times, the cause of the noise and the contact information for who at the Construction team will handle concerns or complaints. If your variance will be reviewed by the Noise Review Board, you will be notified that an additional neighborhood notification with the date of the hearing will be required. The Noise Office will contact you if your variance will be heard by the Noise Review Board. Neighbors have an opportunity to comment about the requested variance by emailing the noise office and/or by attending the hearing.  If you have additional questions, please contact the Noise Program for further details. 
  4. The Noise Program will review your application for completeness. Typically, it takes about 10 days for the Noise Officer and the Noise Review Board Chair to determine if additional information is needed, if your variance will require a Noise Review Board hearing, or if your application’s request is likely to be denied.
  5. Staff will provide you with a processing number (IVR #) and the fee due for your variance application. Please note, this is not the final approval, and fees must be paid prior to the technical review of your variance. Once you receive a notice of a complete application from our office, you will use the DevHub online portal to pay the fee and be provided instructions if necessary. The Noise Program will finalize your noise variance request once you have submitted a complete variance application and paid your fee
  6. The technical review of your Noise Variance is finalized with the issuance of the APPROVED Variance. Decisions are processed in the order of the date of events of ALL the variances received by the Noise Officer. The Noise Officer can typically process more basic requests and provide a decision within two business weeks, prior to the event.  However, if your project scope requires a Noise Review Board Hearing, it may take as long as forty-five (45) business days. 

Steps for applying for a noise variance for all other activities and events

Noise Variance Application: Activities and Events (non construction-related)

  1. Complete the Activities and Events Variance Form  (the link to the application is in the blue button above). Please specify on the application the exact times/dates of each event, the cause of the noise, and include a site plan which includes the surrounding neighborhood, within a 500-foot radius. Be specific about the source of the noise (i.e. amplified music, public announcements), provide a site plan indicating the source of the noise, and the surrounding environmental elements (trees, streets, structures) and the NAME of your event.  
  2. Return completed application to the Noise Program. You can submit your completed application via email to variances@portlandoregon.gov or via mail to the Noise Program, 1900 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 5000, Portland, OR 97201.
  3. Notify neighbors potentially impacted by the noise variance event. The application won’t be considered complete without you having provided neighbor notification that a noise variance application is being submitted. At a minimum your notification must specify the activity dates/times, the cause of the noise and the contact information for who will handle concerns, i.e. turn down the volume, during the event. If your variance will be reviewed by the Noise Review Board you will be notified that an additional neighborhood notification with the date of the hearing will be required. The Noise Office will contact you if your variance will be heard by the Noise Review Board. Neighbors have an opportunity to comment about the requested variance by emailing the noise office and/or by attending the hearing.  If you have additional questions, please contact the Noise Program for further details. 
  4. The Noise Program will review your application for completeness. Typically, it takes about 10 days for the Noise Officer and the Noise Review Board Chair to determine if additional information is needed, if your variance will require a Noise Review Board hearing, or if your application’s request is likely to be denied.
  5. Staff will provide you with a processing number (IVR #) and the fee due for your variance application. Please note, this is not the final approval, and fees must be paid prior to the technical review of your variance. Once you receive a notice of a complete application from our office, you will use the DevHub online portal to pay the fee and be provided instructions if necessary. The Noise Program will finalize your noise variance request until you have submitted a complete variance application and paid your fee
  6. The technical review of your Noise Variance is finalized with the issuance of the APPROVED Variance. Decisions are processed in the order of the date of events of ALL the variances received by the Noise Officer.  The Noise Officer can typically process more basic requests and provide a decision within two business weeks, prior to the event. However, if your project scope requires a Noise Review Board Hearing, it may take as long as forty-five (45) business days. 

Noise variance fees

Please see a complete list of fees in the document below.


Standards for review

All applications will be reviewed considering the following measures:

  • The reason a variance is being requested
  • Length of time the noise will be occurring with specific times/dates
  • The number of people the noise will impact
  • Whether the public's health, safety, or welfare is harmed
  • Whether the noise impact outweighs the benefit to the public

Review process for projects with a potentially significant impact

Applications for activities and construction projects that may impact many Portlanders over more than a brief time period are reviewed by the Noise Review Board (a volunteer group with monthly meetings). Applications before the Noise Review Board are decided within forty-five (45) business days of receiving the completed application.

It may be possible to shorten the two types of review processes if a faster review is needed. There is an additional fee for this, and the Noise Control Officer/Noise Review Board Chair must have enough time to look at the request to decide that the request is in the City’s interest. The Noise Program office needs at least three business days to review the application and request a faster review. If a Noise Review Board variance is needed, the Chair of the Noise Review Board needs at least seven business days for review.


Contact us

You can schedule appointments to talk with us about:

  • Applying for a noise variance
  • Preparing a noise variance application for review by the Noise Review Board
  • Discussing a submitted application for a noise variance (for the applicant only)

Schedule an appointment with the Noise Program

You may also email us any variance-related questions or variance concerns at variances@portlandoregon.gov or call 503-865-6650 (Monday to Thursday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.).


Appeals

To appeal a noise variance decision to the City Council, the applicant or legal representative, or any person who has submitted oral or written testimony, must take these steps:

  • Notice of the intent to appeal must be submitted in writing to the City Auditor’s Office within ten (10) days of the effective date of the decision.
  • The notice must identify the decision that is being appealed.
  • It must include the appellant’s name, address and signature, phone number, relationship to the permit decision action, and clear reason(s) for the appeal.
  • When the Auditor's Office receives the appeal, it will schedule an appeal date on the calendar of the City Council.